Browsing Tag


Books We Love: Read, Read, Read!

#bookexcursion, Books We Love

There are certain poetry books that I return to over and over again in my classroom. Books with poems that reflect my students’ experiences show up as read-alouds every year. The books then find worthy places on our classroom bookshelves where they are adored by dozens of third graders. Read! Read! Read! by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater may become an instant classic, too.

This book is a celebration of what it means to be a reader. Much of the book explores the magic of the written word and how we carry it with us as we grow. While many of the poems are inspiring, they are funny and clever, too. The poems are inclusive of many different reading experiences, from the child whose favorite reading material is on the cereal box to the child who lost a grandmother, but found healing in Charlotte’s Web.

As I read the poems, connections to students past and present were swirling around in my head. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has given us a gift: poems that will meet readers where they are on their reading journeys. Every child reading this book will find a poem that makes them feel celebrated. It is my hope that this book finds its way onto the bookshelves of classrooms and homes, and into the hands of young readers everywhere.

Read! Read! Read! will be released in September 2017 by Wordsong Books.

Huge thanks to Amy Ludwig VanDerwater for sharing a copy of Read! Read! Read! with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!

Books We Love: Draw the Line

Books We Love

Have you ever thought about the power we give to lines? We use them to connect, and we use them to divide. They make up paths from place to place, as well as borders that separate. In Draw the Line, two boys are each drawing their own lines when they discover that some magical things can happen if they team up. In order to create something amazing, they’re going to have to let go of the things that stand between them.

The fact that this book is wordless creates so many possibilities for its use in the classroom. It will inspire countless conversations on friendship, community, and communication. Younger readers can use the book to discuss how they connect with others, while readers through high school age can connect this story to current events. Readers of all ages can imagine the thoughts and conversations of the two artists. How might words help them achieve their goal? How might words stand in their way?

I can only imagine the impact this book would have if it were put in the hands of every child and adult. This is a book that is desperately needed in today’s world. Draw the Line will inspire us all to live our lives drawing lines of connection.

Draw the Line will be released in October 2017 by Roaring Brook Press.

Thanks to Roaring Brook Press for making an Advanced Review Copy of this book available at the International Literacy Association conference.

Books We Love: One Proud Penny

Books We Love

I’m always looking to add more informational texts to my classroom library, so I was so excited to take a look at One Proud Penny! This inventive and engaging picture book follows a penny protagonist as he pops up in many different places. Readers will be rooting for the penny as he gets left behind and stuck in some precarious situations, and again as he makes his way out and fulfills his purpose. With hilarious narrative and great illustrations, One Proud Penny will draw readers in from the very first page. Throughout the story, the authors include informative tidbits and fun facts that will stick with readers. Infographic-like spreads with facts about pennies through the years give readers experience in interpreting data.

While the penny isn’t usually a go-to when naming fascinating objects, Siegel and Bloch bring the penny to life for readers everywhere! I know this will be a favorite in my classroom this year.

Books We Love: The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do

Books We Love

The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do
by Ashley Spires

Lou is just an ordinary girl – one who loves to play with friends and go on adventures. That is, until the adventure is something new. When Lou’s friends want to climb a tree, Lou thinks of every excuse possible for staying on the ground. One reason in particular keeps her from trying: “I CAN’T climb the tree.” When Lou tries to climb, she learns that she really can’t climb. “Not yet, anyway.”

This book is a sweet and simple look at how saying “I can’t” makes us miss out on adventures. Adding a “yet” to that sentence inspires us to give things a try until we get closer to our goal. This book pairs nicely with Ashley Spire’s The Most Magnificent ThingSpires’ writing teaches kids that by trying and learning from our attempts, we can grow stronger and reach our goals.

Classroom Connections

I can’t wait to use this book with some of my 3rd grade kiddos. In a time where the world places so much pressure on kids to be “perfect,” this book takes some weight off kids’ shoulders and shows them to trust the journey. This book is perfect for introducing growth mindset in your classroom, or for a reminder of the power of “yet.”

 The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do will be released in May 2017 by Kids Can Press.

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Kids Can Press. in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Books We Love: Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee!

#DiverseKidLit, Books We Love

Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee!
by Andrea Lorey

Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee! is one of those books that tells the story of someone we should have all known about a long time ago. James Van Der Zee was a remarkable photographer during the Harlem Renaissance. His story is one of triumph over adversity, perseverance through doubt, and above all, hard work.

Something that captivated me through this book was the way Lorey and illustrator Keith Mallett bring Van Der Zee’s story to life. As a reader, I felt transported to 1890s Massachusetts and 1920s New York City. This book is captivating, and will absolutely grab the interest of children in classrooms around the world.

This book is so desperately needed in the world right now, as it preaches the importance of representation. As the book explains, before Van Der Zee’s photos, most pictures of black people were “sad and grim depictions of poor farm workers or struggling city dwellers.” But with Van Der Zee behind the camera, “Click! Boom! Everything changed.” I can only imagine how powerful that must have been. We are so fortunate to have Van Der Zee’s photos as documentation of the energy of 1930s Harlem. And thanks to Lorey and Mallett, Van Der Zee’s photos will inspire a new generation of viewers.

Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee! will be released in May 2017 by Lee & Low Books.

Note: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Lee & Low Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Celebrating the Life of Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Books We Love

About a year ago, I picked up a copy of I Wish You More in a Barnes & Noble. Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, the book is so simple, yet sweetly profound. With passages like “I wish you more ups than downs” and “I with you more treasures than pockets,” I fell in love with the poetry of the book.

In sharing the book with my third graders, I discovered that it became a favorite for them, too. At the end of the school year last June, my students wrote and illustrated their own wishes for each other. Amy’s poetry inspired them to write beautiful lines, like “I wish you more yays than nays” and “I wish you more togethers than by yourselfs.”

Amy Krouse Rosenthal passed away from ovarian cancer on Monday at age 51. She is someone who did so much good in this world in the far too little time she was given. She lived her life deliberately and encouraged so many others to do the same. She saw the joy in every moment and shared those moments with the world. Today, I’m celebrating her life by trying to embrace her words: “I wish you more pause than fast forward.”

For more on Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s remarkable life, I recommend the following, along with some tissues and a hug from someone you love:

Books We Love: Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

#DiverseKidLit, Books We Love

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay
Written by Susan Hood
Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

“Buried in the trash was music. And buried in themselves was something to be proud of.”

When I was eight years old, I joined a choir at my elementary school called the Peacemakers. I speak often about how being a part of a music group changed my life. It gave me confidence and instilled a strong work ethic. Nothing felt more magical than coming together to create one sound. Today, I get to see my third grade students shine in the Peacemakers, too, and I can see yet again how instruments and songs can make a difference. When I picked up Ada’s Violin, I immediately felt connected to the story of music changing lives.

It’s not often that you find a nonfiction book that so strongly radiates hope. While children’s stories often teach lessons and inspire to action, the story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay reaches another level. Teaching lessons of growth, perseverance, environmental activism and diversity, not a page goes by in Ada’s Violin that doesn’t inspire.

At its heart a story about the power of education, Ada’s Violin follows a young girl in Cateura, Paraguay as she lives her life among trash heaps. In a small town where mot people are employed as “recyclers” who go through the trash each night, Ada strives for something more for herself and her younger sister. Her call is answered when her grandmother signs her up for lessons with a man named Favio Chávez. As Favio realizes his students are without instruments, he begins to create them out of the trash that lines the streets. Over time, the instruments and their musicians come together to create a beautiful orchestra.

As soon as I finished reading Ada’s Violin, I picked it up to read it again. There are so many ways in which this book gets you thinking. This story holds the promise of change. It urges us to change the way we use and throw out garbage. It urges us to find magic in the smallest things. It urges us to never give up, even when the odds are stacked against us. As Favio Chavez tells his students, we all must “be kind, always say please and thank you, say you’re sorry, be dedicated when you commit to something.” Ada’s Violin inspires us to do just that.

Friday Five: Books for Black History Month and Beyond

#DiverseKidLit, Friday Five

“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

Around February every year, I see lists of great books featuring black protagonists or written by black authors. I love having this opportunity to share books that celebrate some amazing figures in our nation’s history. My hope, however, is that we can use these texts year-round in our classrooms. Kids deserve to see themselves represented in literature, and they also need to see the lives of others represented. My students have all read at least four of the books on today’s Friday Five list, and I can tell you that these books are in high demand year-round. The time is always right to share these stories with our children.

Martin’s Big Words
by Doreen Rappaport

I have always found the words of historical figures to be powerful tools in understanding a person’s impact on the world. The words of Martin Luther King Jr. live on in both our hearts and on stone, and with good reasons. My students were so inspired by the words of Dr. King, and they created posters to share their favorite quotes from the story. The quotes hang around our classroom as a reminder to be our best selves and help others in every way we can.

The Other Side
by Jacqueline Woodson

My students absolutely love Jacqueline Woodson’s books, and I love the way they introduce empathy and understanding to kids. In a New York Times article, author Kwame Alexander referenced Woodson’s books, then said: “If we don’t give children books that are literary mirrors as well as windows to the whole world of possibility, if these books don’t give them the opportunity to see outside themselves, then how can we expect them to grow into adults who connect in meaningful ways to a global community, to people who might look or live differently than they?” The Other Side is an excellent example of how Woodson creates windows and mirrors for kids.
Through My Eyes
by Ruby Bridges
There’s something extremely powerful about hearing someone’s story in their own words. Ruby Bridges’ memoir for children is an incredible collection of moments, feelings and memories. I read Through My Eyes for the first time in third grade, and I was completely hooked. I’ve never forgotten Ruby Bridges’ story. When I met her at a conference in 2012, I had the chance to tell her what an impact Through My Eyes made on me. The book is still inspiring children to reach out of their comfort zones in order to make connections with others.
Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis
by Jabari Asim
In 2012, I met Congressman John Lewis for the first time at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC. I asked him what work was left to be done for civil rights education, and he said “I think it’s important for all of our schools, elementary, middle school but even kindergarten level, really to teach young people about what happened and how it happened.” In our country, we have a tendency to teach a few lessons about the Civil Rights Movement during January and February, then check it off our list of things to cover. We need to make sure that education about civil rights heroes is engrained in our instruction so that students can understand America’s history. Preaching to the Chickens is an amazing new biography from Jabari Asim. It tells the story of John Lewis’ childhood, inspiring children to realize that any kid can grow up to be a world changer.
Who Was Rosa Parks?
Rosa Parks once wrote, “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” Rosa Parks’ story is one that often gets reduced to a sentence or two of a black history month presentation. My students love this book because it lets them dig deep into the story of Rosa Parks’ deliberate actions towards creating a better world.

Feel free to share your favorite books in the comments below!

Review: Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White

Books We Love

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White
by Melissa Sweet

My Rating:

Note: Some Writer! will be released on October 4th, 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers. A link to pre-order is included at the bottom of this review.


Earlier this year, I shared how excited I was to hear that Melissa Sweet would be publishing an E.B. White biography. When I received an advanced review copy, the book took my expectations and completely blew them out of the park. Some Writer! is one of the most well-written biographies for children that I have ever read. I have no doubt in my mind that this book deserves and will receive a place on classroom bookshelves everywhere.

Melissa Sweet digs deep into the life of the beloved children’s author, starting with his early life and carrying the reader through his final days. Along the way, Sweet masterfully weaves in remarkable artifacts and quotations from E.B. White’s own writing. The book is a celebration of the genius found in White and his work. Although I didn’t think it was possible, Sweet’s writing made me love White’s work even more than I already did.

While Sweet celebrates White’s incredible writing, Sweet’s writing deserves similar recognition. It is rare that a biography for children carries so much emotion and weight. Sweet paints a picture of White’s life in a way that is easy for children to understand, but still draws them in. Sweet enables readers to feel as if they were a character in White’s life story, walking alongside him through all his adventures.

With truly unbelievable illustrations and graphic design, Sweet makes White’s story accessible for readers of all levels. This book is bound to be enjoyed by kids and parents for generations to come, just as White’s book’s are.

This is a don’t-miss book that tells the beautiful backstory of the children’s stories we all know and love.

Memorable Quotes

The most memorable quotes from the text don’t come from Sweet’s writing, but from White’s. Sweet seamlessly incorporates quotations from White’s books and essays in order to support her comments about White’s life. Here are a few favorites:

On writing for children:
“I would rather wait a year than publish a bad children’s book, as I have too much respect for children.”

“Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up to children, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and general congenial readers on earth… Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words, and they backhand them over the net.”

On being human:

“Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.”

“Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.”

Classroom Connections

This book is a great fit for the fourth to sixth grade classroom, although it could be used across many grade levels.

  • Sweet uses fantastic vocabulary throughout the book. Many different terms can be introduced using the text, such as footloose and sound advice. Sweet does a great job of providing context for these words, so readers can be challenged to infer the meaning of words that are new to them.
  • The book includes absolutely amazing advice on writing from E.B. White and other children’s authors who loved his work. Chapters on style and substance in children’s writing could inspire students to demonstrate some of the strategies in their own writing. Middle school students could use White’s advice on writing in conjunction with E.B.’s children’s books to find exemplars for the writing strategies White championed.

Book Information
Title: Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White
Author: Melissa Sweet
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: October 2016
Price: US $18.99
Source: Edelweiss – Advanced Review Copy

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Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Review: Max at Night

Books We Love

Max at Night
by Ed Vere

My Rating:

Note: Max at Night will be released on September 3rd by Sourcebooks. A link to preorder is included at the bottom of this review.


Last September, Ed Vere’s Max the Brave hit bookstores and became a favorite of many kids (and reviewers!). Having absolutely loved the first book, I was so excited to read Vere’s sequel, Max at Night. Those of us that fell in love with Max in his debut will love the sequel!

While Max the Brave reminded readers of Are You My Mother?Max at Night is reminiscent of Goodnight, Moon in that the little black kitten is literally trying to say goodnight to the moon. We follow on his journey as he seeks to find the moon in the sky. A super sweet, playful tale is accompanied by beautiful illustrations. With this book, Vere has definitely established Max as a beloved picture book character. This book is a great fit for Pre-K to 2 classrooms, or children’s bedroom bookshelves.

Book Information
Title: Max at Night
Author and Illustrator: Ed Vere
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Release Date: September 2016
Price: US $16.99
Source: NetGalley – Advanced Review Copy

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Note: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this text from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for reading!